Thoughts on Barry Barred Owl of Central Park: Deceased August 2021

Updated: Aug 12


Tiger Swallowtail 2 August 2021 photographed in our Bronx yard by Deborah Allen.

11 August 2021


Bird Notes: Our updated Aug-Sep schedule is now on our web site. Click here: SCHEDULE Starting this week on Friday (13 August) we have bird walks Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon and will be adding two evening walks per week beginning the last week in August. N.B. If the weather is inclement (rain), check the web site for a cancellation notice...we will post that by 6am the morning of the walk. If no notice = we walk we walk we walk.


IN case you had not heard, Barry the Barred Owl of Central Park died after colliding with a Central Park Conservancy vehicle early (2:30am) Friday morning 6 August. We provide a New York Times obituary for this owl in our historical notes below. For anyone not from NYC, it is difficult to fathom why this owl received so much attention from people and the media. Here is some of that attention: Wonderful Barry Barred Owl Memorial Video


The loss of this Barred Owl is more than the death of a bird. It was the loss of the possibility that we would have nesting Barred Owls in Central Park in the near future. It is a step back from the evolving idea that wild things can live and thrive in urban areas. About the best thing the Central Park Conservancy can do now to get back on the good side of this terrible accident is to partner with some organization to release Barred Owls into Central Park to establish a breeding pair or two. Think Big! We already know that Barred Owls can survive in Central Park in all seasons - so why not release some here as scientists have done for Peregrine Falcons, California Condors and other raptors to re-establish their populations? Imagine the good publicity for some raptor organization. Meanwhile Barred Owls are common in captivity - especially at raptor rehab centers. The ingredients exist already: The interest from NYC birders; funding; and Barred Owls - all that is needed is some imagination and commitment from the Central Park Conservancy.


In this week's Historical Notes, we send two contemporary notes: (a) NYC Weather for July 2021: the third wettest July (ever!) on record; and (b) a New York Times obituary for Barry Barred Owl 6 August 2021.

Black-crowned Night Heron at Indian Cave (Central Park) 1 August 2021 Deborah Allen


Below: Eastern Kingbird fledgling Turtle Pond (CP), Saturday 7 August 2021 D. Allen

Bird Walks for Mid- to Late August 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here


1. Friday, 13 August 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) $10. N.B. this walk meets uptown - at the north end of the park...but easy to reach.


2. Saturday, 14 August 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.


3. Sunday, 15 August at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.


4. Monday, 16 August 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10. N.B. this walk meets at the IMAGINE mosaic inside the park at 72nd - inside the park (about 50 yards from CP West).

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5. Friday, 20 August 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) $10. N.B. this walk meets uptown - at the north end of the park...but easy to reach.


6. Saturday, 21 August 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.


7. Sunday, 22 August at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.


8. Monday, 23 August 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10. N.B. this walk meets at the IMAGINE mosaic inside the park at 72nd - inside the park (about 50 yards from CP West).


Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions: rdcny@earthlink.net

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The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.


Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is (rdcny@earthlink.net). If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please.


The Bronx (West Farms near the New York Botanical Garden) on 14 February 2014

Below: Along the Bronx River (within the New York Botanical Garden) on 28 March 2009

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights): for both Saturday and Sunday August 7/8 we found a total of eight warbler species. Saturday was the better of the two for warblers (all eight species) with "only" four species on Sunday. However on Sunday we had a rare Olive-sided Flycatcher (photo below) perched on a snag in the Ramble as well as a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. August 2021 is shaping up as a great month for warbler migration with two Prothonotary Warblers found on Wednesday, 11 August.


Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday 7 August: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday 8 August: Click Here


Olive-sided Flycatcher in the Ramble on 8 August by Andrea Hessel MD

Below: The Bronx (West Farms) on 26 February 2014

Below: The Bronx (Pelham Bay Park) in January 2002

HISTORICAL NOTEs


July 2021: Third Rainiest July in NYC History

Rob Frydlewicz in the New York City Weather Almanac


With 11.09 inches of rain measured in Central Park, July 2021 became the third rainiest July on record (behind 1889 and 1975), and 15th wettest month overall. This was New York's first month with ten inches or more of precipitation since June 2013 (10.10"), and the most to fall in any month since August 2011, when 18.95" flooded the City (the greatest monthly amount on record).


A little more than half of July's rain fell on three days between July 8-12: 2.27" on 7/8; 2.06" on 7/9, and 1.42" on 7/12. The amounts of 7/8 and 7/9 set records for the dates. 8.49" of rain fell in the first 12 days of the month (and 9.14" if 6/30 is included), then 2.60" fell thereafter (which was slightly below average for that period).


There were 18 days of measurable rain, which was the second greatest number of days with rain in July. July 1871 had twenty days, but just half the amount of rain as July 2021. (Of the 27 months with ten inches or more or precipitation, the average number of days of measurable precipitation is 13.)


Besides being rainy, this was the coolest July since 2009 (and 0.1 degree cooler than July 2014). When all Julys are considered, July 2021 is in the middle of the pack, temperature-wise, with 54% being warmer. The combination of a warmer than average June (+2.3F degrees), and July being 1.5 degrees cooler than average, placed these two months closer together (1.7F degrees) than any June/July combo since the summer of 2001 (when July was just 0.3F degree warmer). Looking at average high and low, July's average high of 83.0 was just 0.5 degree F warmer than June's, while the low of 69.0 F was 3.0 degrees F milder. Because many days had dew points in the 68F-73F range, the air often felt oppressive rather than cool.

For the first time since 2009, a reading in the 50s occurred in July: 59F on 7/3. And that same day (3 July), the high was only 66F, which was the first high cooler than 70F in July since 2013, and the coolest reading in July since 2005. The month's coolest and hottest readings were three days apart as a high of 92F occurred on 6 July (and the 59F reading came three days after June's hottest temperature, 98F, on 6/30).


July had four days in the 90s, half as many as June, and the fewest such days in July since 2014, which had three. (Seven of the Julys between 2000-2009 also had four or fewer days in the 90s.) Although the number of days of 90+ was half the average for July, the number of lows in the 70s, 16, was an average am0unt (but ten fewer than last year's record amount).


July had 8.47 inches more rain than June's 2.62 inches, but there have been ten other instances where the disparity between two months was even greater (looking only at wet months preceded by dry ones). The greatest difference occurred in Sept-Oct 2005, when October had 16.73", which was 16.25" more than September's bone-dry 0.48".

Finally, after suffering through sweltering heat, and a nighttime thunderstorm on the last day of June, the last day of July couldn't have been more different, as skies were clear and temperatures on the cool side (high/low of 77°/60°). While 6/30's high of 98° (14 degrees above average) was the hottest reading on that date since 1964, 7/31's low of 60° (ten degrees below average) was the chilliest since 1956.

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Barry the Owl, Beloved by N.Y.C. Birders, Dies in Central Park Collision

Emma Goldberg in the New York Times

Aug. 6, 2021


The barred owl had attracted a devoted following of New Yorkers, drawn to her elegant feathers and fearlessness toward people

The barred owl known as Barry, who drew admirers to Central Park, died in a collision with a Central Park Conservancy vehicle. Dave Sanders for The New York Times


Barry the Barred Owl, whose majestic presence and unusually extroverted demeanor made her a beloved Central Park celebrity, died early Friday in a collision with a Central Park Conservancy maintenance vehicle.


She was most likely just over a year old based on her feather color, according to Robert DeCandido, known as “Birding Bob,” who has guided bird walks in Central Park for more than 25 years. Birding experts had realized in recent months that Barry was female.


Over the last year, as Barry made a home for herself on the branch of a hemlock in Central Park’s Ramble, she developed a cultishly devoted following of birders, photographers, joggers and other New Yorkers who came to depend on her for cheer and comfort during a year of grief for New York City.


Barry died around 2:30 a.m., when she “made contact” with the vehicle of a two-person Central Park Conservancy maintenance crew, the conservancy said on Twitter. The vehicle was driving around the park doing early-morning inspection and cleanup, the conservancy’s chief communications officer, Mary Caraccioli, said.


The owl was most likely flying across Central Park’s West Drive to catch prey, according to the conservancy, and was not in the line of sight of the vehicle driver, who was moving at or below 15 miles per hour, the conservancy said.


Staff reported the incident immediately, the conservancy said.


“This owl meant so much to so many people,” said Eric Balcanoff, 32, a photographer who started making daily visits to see and photograph Barry last fall. “There’s a lot of us who are devastated today. We always knew she might fly away and start a family, but none of us were prepared for this.”


Mr. Balcanoff’s experience mirrored that of many New Yorkers: Though he hadn’t previously spent much time observing wildlife, he was so drawn to Barry’s charisma that he ended up becoming an avid birder.


“She had such a lovable face and these soulful eyes,” Mr. Balcanoff said.


Barry the Barred Owl was first spotted in the Loch, a tranquil and leafy watercourse toward the park’s northwestern tip, in October 2020. Right away, birders noticed her outgoing personality. As clusters of onlookers gathered, she would boldly swoop down for her prey — small rats, mice, birds and frogs. She wasn’t afraid to perch 10 or even five feet away from her fans.


“We noticed her general lack of wariness about humans,” said David Barrett, who runs the Twitter account Manhattan Bird Alert. “She was quite amenable to the presence of people.”


Dr. DeCandido was one of the first to spot Barry last October. He was leading a group that came upon her in the park’s north end.


He expected her to fly away after a few days and was surprised when she stuck around, he said. As the months wore on, and as quarantine boredom drove New Yorkers to birding in increasing numbers, Barry became a mainstay of Dr. DeCandido’s birding walks. He sometimes played owl calls, had people line up on the path and then watched them react delightedly as Barry swooped down into view.


“She was a real people pleaser,” he said. “There became a cult of Barry.”

She became the longest-staying large owl in known Central Park history and the first large owl to spend a summer there. She followed the famed mandarin duck, or “hot duck,” a celebrity bird who earlier stirred up a frenzy among New York birders, then disappeared.

Barry Barred Owl, Evodia Field (Ramble) on 25 July 2021 Deborah Allen

As the months wore on, local birders were able to gather more data on Barry. Toward the middle of winter, she moved from the Loch to the ramble, where birders were able to get a better view of her hunting. In February, they learned Barry was a female, when she likely began to think about breeding and people first heard her high-pitched hoot, which Mr. Barrett measured using a voice spectrogram.


Local birders also noticed that she was more active during the day than is typical of owls; they suspected that she was unafraid of humans because she was so young.


Owls typically swoop down from their perches at significant speed, so it is fairly common for them to collide with vehicles, according to Dr. DeCandido. But these collisions more frequently occur on roads where cars are moving quickly.


“The chance of this owl contacting this vehicle should be minimal, especially if the vehicle is driving slow,” Dr. DeCandido said.


On Friday afternoon, when the conservancy announced her death, there was an outpouring of memories and mourning from Barry’s social media supporters, and #RipBarry trended on Twitter.


Ms. Caraccioli noted that tragic collisions like the one that killed Barry are rare.

“We were heartbroken, and we knew the community would be too,” she said.


A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 7, 2021, Section A, Page 12 of the New York edition with the headline: Beloved Central Park Owl Is Killed, Leaving Her Admirers Heartbroken.

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Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Reservoir, Central Park looking southeast from the northwest corner

First finished Bay Window (of five) at our house. This is the downstairs dining room looking into the native Seckel pear in our yard. Deborah likes this view a lot - so she will take over this room as her new office...More photos of our Bay Windows in upcoming Newsletters.


Our kitchen under construction in January 2019

(below) Our finished kitchen August 2021

Mexican (Talavera) Tiles; can be purchased direct from factory...they ship from Laredo, Texas and you will receive them in one week's time (approx). Tiles made by Color y Tradicion on Facebook and their Website.


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